A national economic, social and cultural whirlwind transformed the life chances of the children and grandchildren of those I graduated from Port Clinton High School with in 1959.
I found this Piece by Robert Putnam in the NYT compelling. Putnam wrote the book Bowling Alone which I read about ten years ago. It described the shifting American social landscape and introduced me to the concept of social capital. This piece in today's Times describes the post WWII baby boom halcyon days of the American Dream we all still hear about and compares the stories of those the author knew in Port Clinton on Lake Erie to the crumbling communities and growing economic divide in that community now. Putnam offers Port Clinton as emblamatic of the losses facing our children, our communities and our country. So what will it take to turn this around?. --Lou
"...My classmates describe our youth in strikingly similar terms: “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.” In fact, however, in the breadth and depth of the social support we enjoyed, we were rich, but we didn’t know it.
As we graduated, none of us had any inkling that Port Clinton would change anytime soon. While almost half of us headed off to college, those who stayed in town had reason to expect a steady job (if they were male), marriage and a more comfortable life than their parents’.
But just beyond the horizon a national economic, social and cultural whirlwind was gathering force that would radically transform the life chances of the children and grandchildren of the graduates of the P.C.H.S. class of 1959. The change would be jaw dropping and heart wrenching, for Port Clinton turns out to be a poster child for changes that have engulfed America..."
"....The crumbling of the American dream is a purple problem, obscured by solely red or solely blue lenses. Its economic and cultural roots are entangled, a mixture of government, private sector, community and personal failings. But the deepest root is our radically shriveled sense of “we.” Everyone in my parents’ generation thought of J as one of “our kids,” but surprisingly few adults in Port Clinton today are even aware of R’s existence, and even fewer would likely think of her as “our kid.” Until we treat the millions of R’s across America as our own kids, we will pay a major economic price, and talk of the American dream will increasingly seem cynical historical fiction."